This “Private Business” Thing . . .

Do “private businesses” have the right – morally – to require that customers wear Face Diapers as a condition of entry? And are customers morally obliged to respect such conditions?

If they do – and if they are – then it seems logical that “private businesses” also have the right to require that people submit to medical procedures as a condition of entry, such as being injected with whatever’s in those Needles practically chasing Americans around like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon – but without the humor.

Many conservatives and even some libertarians have answered in the affirmative – taking the position that “private businesses” have every right to insist upon the former and – therefore – have already answered in the affirmative regarding the latter.

But are they right?

It is important to define our terms before we proceed to debate.


What is “private property”?

And what does it mean, today?

It is generally taken to mean land, physical structures on the land and things of that nature lawfully (and morally) owned by the private individuals who acquired the property by free exchange and who therefore have the exclusive right to possess and – the other side of the coin – to control it. Including the prerogative to restrict or deny others the use of it or access to it on the basis of the moral principle that it isn’t their property. Because others did not pay for it. Therefore, others have no right to it. They may be allowed to use it or have access to it, at the discretion of the owner, who grants such access and use as a conditional privilege – according to whatever terms he sets forth.

As distinct from what is styled “public” property – taken to mean land, physical structures on the land and things of that nature that the government controls and which the public is compelled to finance via taxes and fees and for that reason is considered to have a legal as well as moral right to avail themselves of.

The problem is there’s no longer much distinction between these two things – especially as regards private businesses.

Their “private” status is denied by the government, for one thing. They are not the true owners of their property – in other than a technical sense – because they do not control it. The government does – via the setting of mandatory “terms and conditions” backed up by the force of government. So-called “private” businesses may only do business with the permission of the government and only as the government allows.

They are “private” in the sense that you are a “customer” of the DMV or the IRS.

All businesses operate under duress because none are free to set their own terms and conditions.

And all of them are compelled by the fact of this duress to set terms and conditions that are by definition affronts to liberty, both that of the putative owners as well as that of their customers.

For example, the nominal right of the owner – if private property existed and was respected – to not do business with anyone, for any reason.

Clearly, the supposed owners of “private” businesses in this country have no such right. Or rather, that right is not respected. Indeed, they have a legal obligation – enforced by government – to do business with everyone the government says they must, even when it is contrary to their own wishes – and often, at their own expense. As for example in the case of being compelled to modify their “private” property to accommodate disabled customers, even if the cost cannot be justified by an increase in business – which if it were so would mean no government force would be needed to compel the business to make the accommodation.

In that case – and many others of a piece – the “public” has acquired the legal right (via the force of government) to impose terms and conditions upon the owner, who is really more of a custodian.

Conversely, the putative “owner” of the business is obliged to impose the government’s terms and conditions

upon all who wish to transact business with him, even if he personally opposes such terms and conditions.

In effect, the “private” business becomes – and this is the precise term used – a public accommodation.

Which means it is no longer a private business in any morally meaningful sense.

This does not mean we should accept or respect the “terms and conditions” of the statists who’ve transformed what was private property into what has become public accommodations. Libertarians especially should refrain from using the ugly principles established by the statists to impose their terms and conditions on what remains of private property. As for example by using the force of government to compel a business to do business with them.

It also ought not to serve as the justification for obvious violations of private property, such as the theft thereof.

But are libertarians and others who respect private property as a moral principle obliged to respect the use of private property by government as tool to undermine their rights? As by forcibly denying them the option to lawfully transact business anywhere unless they accede to the government’s terms and conditions, imposed by the fictionally private businesses, which are acting under duress?

This was – and to some extent, remains – the situation with regard to Face Diapers and is becoming the situation, with regard to Needles.

There is a qualitative difference between a private individual deciding, on his own, to engage in a business transaction with another private individual, neither of them acting under duress and both of them free to transact business with others, if they cannot arrive at mutually agreeable “terms and conditions”  . . . and the Potemkin facade of “private businesses” – all of them acting under duress and acting in concert via the obeying of government’s terms and conditions, so as to eliminate the freedom to choose different ones.

A truly private business has every right to post a Face Diapers Required – or No Blacks Allowed – sign by the door and those who respect private property are obliged as a moral matter to respect those signs, even if they regard the sentiments expressed or the actions demanded as loathsome.

But such presumes other businesses are free to not post such signs.

Which, of course, many would – were they free to do so (especially as regards the Diapers). Which would mean that no one’s rights are affronted. The businesses that post objectionable-to-customers signs would not have the power to force other businesses to post the same signs. And customers would be free to do business with the businesses that did business in a way as acceptable to them as to the owners thereof.

But that is not the situation as it exists in this country right now – in which “private business” is a sick joke, on the owners and on us.

We – as customers – are no more obliged to obey or respect the government acting through proxies under duress than we are obliged to obey or respect the government itself. Is there a moral obligation to tell the truth to a government agent with a gun on his hip – out of respect for the principle of not lying?

It is suicidal to liberty to “respect” what isn’t – i.e., “private business” – especially when it is so obviously being used as a weapon against the very concept of rights. Those of the business owner – and those who wish to transact business.

This idea that people are honor-bound to “wear a mask” – or take the jab – or accept that they cannot rightfully shop unless they do, out of respect for private property, is as blinkered as the viewpoint that Jewish people in 1930s Germany were obliged to Heil Hitler! (or wear a yellow star) as a condition of entering a shop to buy their daily bread.

Evade, ignore. Shuck and jive. Ignore the signs. Walk right by. Make them tell you to leave. Don’t just mindlessly obey out of some misplaced sense of obligation.

Whatever it takes to protect your rights. And also for the sake of theirs.

When private businesses exist again, their right to set their (as opposed to government’s) terms and conditions should be respected again.

But not until – and not unless.

 by Eric Peters